Call to Action

Newsletter issue: 
December 2013
News item date: 
Thursday, December 12, 2013

By Timothy Scordato

State Representative Barb Wheeler receives flowers at the 2012 Big Get Together
in appreciation of her service to THP.

State Representative Barb Wheeler is a great example of someone who not only has the ears to hear, but the motivation to turn words into action.  Her service to The Haitian Project (THP) from St. Thomas the Apostle parish over the past two years has been nothing short of outstanding.

Msgr. Daniel Hermes, a peaceful and steadfast man, was among the founding THP supporters in the Diocese of Rockford, IL in 1997.  He began by raising awareness at Holy Family parish, where he was assigned as pastor until 2001, when he was transferred to St. Thomas the Apostle in Crystal Lake, IL, another supporting parish in the diocese.  Since 2001, St.Thomas parish has raised more than $50,000 for THP.

After a decade of strong support, THP welcomedSt. Thomasparishioners to visit its Louverture Cleary School (LCS) on a series of mission trips.  After Mass, at special meetings, and on the sidewalks outside the church, parish priest Fr. Jerome Koutnik passionately called for the involvement of his parishioners.  Rep. Wheeler, a fifteen-year parishioner and then McHenry County Board Member, answered the call.

Early in 2012, while simultaneously campaigning for her current spot as State Representative, Wheeler managed a fantastic fundraiser in support of THP and twoSt. Thomasmission teams.  The event, which raised $10,000 for THP, was stitched together in a matter of two weeks. 

“[This] is what we do as politicians,” Rep. Wheeler said.  “The advantage this fundraiser had that a lot of political events don’t normally have is the fact that past and present missionaries were willing to help with everything from writing press releases to cleanup.  Very few events have such a committed team of volunteers dedicated to the success of a laborious event.  And the other aspect of success of the fundraiser was the open hearts and generosity of the parishioners ofSt. Thomas.”

Rep. Wheeler continues to manageSt. Thomas’ fundraisers for their mission teams.  John Donovan, 2013 mission team coordinator, said Wheeler volunteered her skills for the 2013 fundraiser before he could even ask.  “She doesn’t leave anything left unturned.  If something needs to be done, she turns around and does it,” he said. 

Last June, Donovan met Wheeler in her office to discuss the year’s fundraiser.  While the two brainstormed, she instinctively picked up the phone and booked the band.  Donovan said, “I walked in thinking ‘What am I going to do?’ and walked out thinking ‘We’re almost done!’”

Elizabeth Cross, former THP employee who worked closely withSt. Thomasparishioners, said, “Barb has an incredible ability to see and understand needs, which comes from her ability to understand people.”  When working with Wheeler, THP staff did not have to spell out what was needed, what had to happen, or when it had to happen.  Wheeler immediately understood and ran with it.

Aside from volunteering for the Project and working hard as State Representative, Wheeler is a mother of five children, an active member at St. Thomas the Apostle, a pro-life activist, and a former teacher and Peace Corps volunteer.  Behind all of her work, Wheeler believes, God has called her to it.  Reflecting on the life of Mother Teresa, she said, “Her constant giving of herself, her fearless challenge to leaders to do better and to give more, her selfless dedication of her life for others are all part of what God calls us to do daily.”